Sony Cyber-shot DSC-WX7 Review
For a while, there was something about the Sony Cyber-shot DSC WX7 that we couldn't quite put our finger on. However, now we know what it is. Look at it - at first glance it's juat a simple, grey rectangle that would be a perfect companion for the happy snapper. But then look more closely at the specification: 16.2 million pixels sat in front of Sony's prestigious Exmor R CMOS sensor, AVCHD Full HD video, Carl Zeiss lens, 3D sweep panorama, stereo sound, background defocus and multi shot layering. That feature-set is more at home in a prosumer model costing upwards of £400. However, at around £200, the price is tempting but it may be the unusual and advanced features that dissuades you because of their complexity. If that's the case, we're going to take a look at them now and hopefully put you at rest. The Sony DSC-WX7 is available in silver or black and costs around £229.99.
Ease of Use
As we said, the Sony Cyber-shot DSC WX7 is a simple, grey rectangle but that's not to say that it's in any way ugly. In fact, the clean, sleek lines and small rounded corners make for an attractive unit. The lens barrel - although only holding a modest 5x optical zoom - takes up the majority of the front. An ultra small flash sits just next to the lens along with the AF light.
The design makes us think that this is a camera styled for the tech-savvy and types that aren't into all this retro malarky. It's extremely futuristic and minimal. The power button is a very small affair and sits into the body so as not to attract attention. This is also useful for not accidentally pressing it instead of taking a picture. The shutter release has been retained at a size normally seen on larger cameras but the front 25% has been squared off to fit with the front of the camera. This odd shape would normally be problematic for operating the zoom switch as it needs a perfect circle to wrap around. Sony have overcome this by making the shutter release turn with the zoom switch. After all, you're not touching the shutter release when zooming so it doesn't really matter.
On the back of the Sony Cyber-shot DSC WX7 the features look pretty simple but Sony have integrated them with the screen, so accessing them will enable alternative options on screen. The top switch moves between taking pictures, panoramics and video. Panoramic pictures are taken using Sony's sweep panorama and new 3D sweep panorama. A dedicated video button is located to the right of this switch and is close to the thumb for fast acting video in case of a candid situation. The small ring in the middle can be pressed as a left, right, up and down navigation pad or rotated like a command wheel when there's a mode to adjust on the screen. Scrolling the wheel at any other time accesses the mode dial where you can choose the mode you want the camera to be in. There are 6 options including intelligent auto, superior auto, program, 3D shooting, scene modes and background defocus. The latter mode works by taking two pictures, one in focus and one out of focus. It then masks the sharp area of the photograph and layers it with the out of focus background to create depth of field. This technique came about because digital compact camera sensors are very small and so have a wide depth of field. Backgrounds that would be out of focus on a DSLR at f/8 are perfectly in focus on a compact camera. Therefore the need to cheat is necessary.
The WX7 harbours one of the best sensors available today. The Sony Exmor R sensor is one of the first back illuminated types released on the market. It works by removing the circuitry that normally surrounds each pixel and places it on the back of the sensor. The circuitry can sometimes block light getting onto the sensor which means the light signal is weaker. To boost the signal, the camera will adjust ISO which also introduces noise. The removal of the circuits obviates the issue and allows for lower ISO to be used in low light which gives smoother pictures. If that's not enough, the new Sony superior auto system betters intelligent auto by producing what Sony call DSLR quality images. It works by taking a series of pictures in a row of the subject at different settings. It then selects the bits of each picture that have the best focusing and exposure before merging them all together into one perfectly focused and perfectly exposed image.
The Sony Cyber-shot DSC WX7 appears to be made to a high standard. The metal casing ensures durability while there are no bits sticking out that can get caught and snapped off. There are one or two areas we'd like to see changed. For example, the USB port is exposed yet the HDMI slot has a cover. The battery door, although not bendy at all looks like it's made from a bit of weak plastic. The bit that infuriated us most was the mode dial. It's worth noting that this only annoyed us because of the way we operated it and we understand that anyone using it the opposite way shouldn't have this. To go to a mode that was above the one we were on, we moved the dial up (placing our thumb on the left side of the dial and turning it clockwise) but this brought the mode up from below the one we were on, so we had to rotate it the other way. Placing our thumb on the right side of the dial would correct this because to move to the option above would move the dial anti-clockwise and bring it the right way. We think that it's because the display is on the screen and we think that if the modes were physically on the dial, it wouldn't be an issue. To us, it was an optical illusion: To move up, we moved our thumb up where we had to move it down.
Should you decide not to use the mode dial, you can still access the main options by going into the main menu. There's also an easy mode for simplifying everything if it all gets a bit too much. One thing we find interesting is the lack of a macro mode. The camera has a macro focusing of 5cm at wide angle but there's no way to enable it. That's because it's integrated into the camera anyway. We've thought for a while that the macro mode is simply redundant because the picture quality doesn't change regardless of the mode so why not just have the lens focusing from macro to infinity and that's what Sony have started to do.
|Memory Card Slot||Battery Compartment|
Instead of separating the quick access functions and main menu with two different buttons, Sony have placed an option to enter the main menu in the function menu. This is a clever little idea that makes space and reduces clutter on the camera. The main menu accesses the more core areas such as what video format to use, the red-eye and blink alert values as well as colour, noise and language settings. When the camera is first turned on, you can set the colours. There's a choice of three: Orange and black, orange and white or hot pink and light pink. You can change this in the display colour setting if you want to.
The Sony Cyber-shot DSC WX7 has a dedicated playback button in the bottom right of the body. The delete button is situated next to playback button and when you're not looking at the pictures you've taken, it works as a help guide to aid your picture taking skills. Changing the display in the playback mode will bring up all the information about the picture such as ISO, white-balance, aperture and shutter speed as well as the file name and histogram. In the menu there's viewing modes, retouching options and delete options too.
In the box, the Sony Cyber-shot DSC WX7 comes with a quick start guide as well as the full user guide on the enclosed CD. The CD also includes Sony's PMB (Picture Motion Browser) version 5.5 for tagging, editing and uploading your pictures. Hardware that comes with the camera includes a mains plug for the charging unit. Although it's not a stand alone type. The charging unit has a USB port that then goes straight into the camera. This means that the camera can be plugged straight into a computer to charge and is great for if you're travelling.
All of the sample images in this Review were taken using the 16 megapixel JPEG setting, which gives an average image size of around 5Mb.
After getting the opportunity to look all round the Sony Cyber-shot DSC WX7 and see its functions and modes in all their glory, we were really looking forward to taking it out and seeing if it could match up to its potential. The first question we asked was: What's with all the noise? We're dismayed to see that the WX7 suffers so badly from noise that reduction software is used quite strongly in anything but the really brightest of light. Not bad when you're abroad or if you're lucky enough to live in a hot country, but for the rest of us Britain simply doesn't have that much really bright light. However, we're testing the camera in the summer so we should get something, right? Judging by some of the results, we're not holding our breath.
It struck us when we viewed the pictures on a computer what was going on: the screen on the back of the camera is so good, it makes even mediocre pictures look amazing. Now this is all very well and good but all it means is that you're going to be disappointed when you get home and by then it's too late to reshoot. One other thing we found was that even if the picture is out of focus, the Sony Cyber-shot DSC WX7 will still take a picture without much of a warning. It doesn't have any red lights flashing or anything else either. All there is to give you a warning is a small green circle in the bottom left of the screen that flashes when focus isn't attained. In other areas, the sensor records colour very well. Bright colours are just that with primaries being recorded realistically. Difficult colours such as purple are treated well as are subtle hues. There's no bleeding of colour if they clash and we also found that skin tones are rendered brilliantly.
As we've already said, we were disappointed to see the amount of noise present in the pictures at low ISO. While the pictures were sharp and detailed, blobs of green colour are visible in dark areas and the pictures have a painted look thanks to the noise reduction system. As we move up through the stages, definition begins to become gradually softer and that colour starts to invade the mid tones by around ISO 400. Noise reduction really kicks in at ISO 800 because the colour noise normally seen on the mid tones at this stage have disappeared. Apart from the salt and pepper noise, ISO1600 gives an admirable result. In fact, if the picture was switched to black & white, it's preferable to ISO 800 because the results are more pleasing. So it's a problematic start for Sony with the ISOrange but then the noise reduction system starts which seems to kick the problem into touch.
ISO 100 (100% Crop)
ISO 200 (100% Crop)
ISO 400 (100% Crop)
ISO 800 (100% Crop)
ISO 1600 (100% Crop)
ISO 3200 (100% Crop)
Pictures from the Sony Cyber-shot DSC WX7 are sharp enough straight out of the camera but should you decide to, they do benefit from a little standard sharpening in Adobe Photoshop.
Original (100% Crop)
Sharpened (100% Crop)
We did find chromatic aberration present in some of the pictures. Interestingly, it's usually found when high contrasting lines meet and all the colours don't focus on the sensor. With the Sony Cyber-shot DSC WX7, we found that we got the worst chroma when there were low contrast lines meeting.
Example 1 (100% Crop)
There's no specific macro mode on the Sony CyberShot WX7, it's only activated properly in the intelligent auto mode. However, the camera does still focus down to 5cm in normal program mode. Pictures are nice and sharp in the middle of the frame but this starts to fuzz out towards the edges.
Using a flash in portraits doesn't affect the eyes in any way on the Sony Cyber-shot DSC WX7. The camera has a red-eye function but we found it unnecessary to use it. The flash, although thin, gives a nice even spread around the frame. Sure at wide-angle it prefers the centre of the frame and there is some vignetting but this is found with any digital compact camera.
Suppressed Flash - Wide Angle (25mm)
Forced Flash - Wide Angle (25mm)
Suppressed Flash - Telephoto (125mm)
Forced Flash - Telephoto (125mm)
And here are some portrait shots. Neither the Forced Flash setting or the Red-Eye Correction option caused any red-eye.
|Forced Flash (100% Crop)|
Red-eye Reduction (100% Crop)
We're really impressed with the night shot and how the Sony Cyber-shot DSC WX7 copes with long exposures. It crossed our minds in the noise section that the problem could be coming from heated pixels from longer exposures but the night shot result quashed that idea. Results are smooth and conflicting colours and casts pose no problem for the sensor or processor.
Night Shot (100% Crop)
This is a selection of sample images from the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-WX7 camera, which were all taken using the 16 megapixel Fine JPEG setting. The thumbnails below link to the full-sized versions, which have not been altered in any way.
Sample Movie & Video
Front of the Camera
Front of the Camera / Lens Extended
Rear of the Camera
Rear of the Camera / Turned On
Rear of the Camera / Image Displayed
Rear of the Camera / Main Menu
Rear of the Camera / Shooting Menu
Rear of the Camera / Main Menu
Top of the Camera
Side of the Camera
Side of the Camera
|Front of the Camera|
|Memory Card Slot|
So after we'd finished the test, we sat down with a cup of tea and had a think about the Sony Cyber-shot DSC WX7. It's a confusing camera and here's why. On the outside it looks like any other budget digital compact with its simple rectangular design, but underneath the hood there's a multitude of features that aren't normally seen on a camera at this price point. After all, a Carl Zeiss lens, Exmor R sensor, 3D sweep panorama, multi layered images, sweep multi angle viewing and background defocus isn't something to shake a stick at.
Once we'd finished swooning over the feature-set, we were a bit disappointed by how the Sony Cyber-shot DSC WX7 actually performed. Sure, it produced nice pictures but because of the superior lens and sensor, we were hoping for more oomph and less noise. The noise issue is really the camera's biggest, but if it's a big problem it can doom pictures from the off. Once we'd noticed the noise in our pictures, that was all we looked for and saw. Getting video onto your computer is a bit of a nightmare too. You see if you simply open up my computer on the desktop, any vieo you've shot doesn't come up because it's an unconfirmed file format. To view and upload your videos, you have to download Sony's PMB (Picture Motion Browser) which does the actions quickly but then becomes really invasive and wants to open everything else you try to download onto the computer.
We think that if you're the type to take a camera on holiday and you want it to look good but not too good, then the WX7 is certainly worth considering. After all, the price that it's set at is great and you won't find many other digital compact cameras providing that amount of cool features for the same price. If you 're happy with the sample shots in this review, then you'll be more than happy with the Sony Cyber-shot DSC WX7.
|Ratings (out of 5)|
|Value for money||4|
Reviews of the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-WX7 from around the web.
Sony's Cyber-shot models have usually always been elegantly styled, with slimline bodies incorporating reasonably attractive specs within. The WX7 is no different in this respect, and is perhaps a bit more rounded than other Sony compacts that have come before.
Read the full review »
|Precision Digital Zoom||Approx. 20x (Total)|
|Smart Zoom||up to 36x (with VGA)|
|Focal Length (f= mm)||4.5-22.5|
|Focal Length (f=35mm conversion)||25-125|
|Macro (cm)||iAuto(W:Approx.5cm(0.16') to Infinity, T:Approx.100cm(3.28') to Infinity)|
|Filter Diameter (mm)||NO|
|Conversion Lens compatibility||NO|
|Carl Zeiss Vario-Tessar Lens||YES|
|CCD Type||Exmor R™ CMOS Sensor|
|Size (Inches)||1/2.3 type(7.77mm)|
|Effective Pixels (Mega Pixels)||Approx. 16.2|
|Soft Skin Mode||YES|
|Intelligent Sweep Panorama||YES|
|Underwater Sweep Panorama||NO|
|3D Sweep Panorama||YES|
|Clear RAW NR||YES|
|Auto Focus Area (Multi Point)||9 points (Under Face Undetected)|
|Auto Focus Area (Centre weighted)||YES|
|Auto Focus Area (Spot)||YES|
|Auto Focus Area (Flexible Spot)||NO|
|Aperture Auto Mode||YES|
|Aperture Priority Mode||NO|
|Aperture Manual Mode||NO|
|Shutter Speed Auto Mode (sec)||iAuto(2" - 1/1,600) / Program Auto(1" - 1/1,600)|
|NR Slow Shutter||1/3sec or slower|
|Hand Shake Alert||YES|
|Exposure Control||± 2.0EV, 1/3EV step|
|White Balance||Auto (intelligent), Daylight, Cloudy, Fluorescent1, Fluorescent2, Fluorescent3, Incandescent, Flash, One Push, One Push Set|
|Automatic White Balance||YES (Intelligent)|
|Light Metering (Multi Pattern)||YES|
|Light Metering (Centre weighted)||YES|
|Light Metering (Spot)||YES|
|ISO Sensitivity (REI)||YES (Auto / 100 / 200 / 400 / 800 / 1600 / 3200)|
|Scene Selection||11 modes (Auto / Twilight / Twilite Portrait / Backlight / Backlight Portrait /Landscape / Macro / Portrait / Infant / Spotlight / Lowlight)|
|AF Illuminator||Auto / Off|
|Optical SteadyShot capability||YES|
|AF Illuminator||Auto / Off|
|Flash Mode||Auto / Flash On / Slow Syncro / Flash Off|
|Red-Eye Correction||Auto / On / Off|
|Auto Daylight Synchronized Flash||YES|
|Distance limitations using Flash (m)||ISO Auto: Approx.0.05-Approx.5.3m(Approx.0.02'-Approx.17.48')(W) / Approx.1.0-Approx.2.2 m(Approx.3.34'-Approx.7.26')(T), ISO3200: up to Approx.7.5m(Approx.24.74')(W) / Approx.3.2m(Approx.10.6')(T)|
|LCD Screen Size (inches)||7.0cm (2.8type)|
|LCD Total Dots Number||460.800|
|LCD Monitor Type||TFT|
|Auto Bright Monitoring||YES|
|Recording Media||Memory Stick™ Duo. Memory Stick PRO Duo™(Mark2 only for movie). Memory Stick PRO Duo™ High Speed (Still only and no Speed Advantage), Memory Stick PRO-HG Duo™ (No Speed Advantage)|
|Recording Media II||SD Memory Card(Class4 or Higher for movie), SDHC/SDXC Memory Card(Class4 or Higher for movie)|
|DCF (Design rule for Camera File System)||YES|
|DPOF (Digital Print Order Format)||YES|
|Burst Mode (shots)||Approx.10 fps (10 shots)|
|Burst Interval (approximately sec)||Approx.0.1 sec. (10 shots)|
|Still Image size (16M 4608 x 3456)||YES|
|Still Image size (14M 4320 x 3240)||NO|
|Still Image size (13M 4224 x 3168)||NO|
|Still Image size (12M 4000 x 3000)||NO|
|Still Image size (10M 3648 x 2736)||YES|
|Still Image size (9.0M, 3456 x 2592)||NO|
|Still Image size (8.0M, 3264 x 2448)||NO|
|Still Image size (7.2M 3072 x 2304)||NO|
|Still Image size (5.0M, 2592 x 1944)||YES|
|Still Image size (3.1M, 2048 x 1536)||NO|
|Still Image size (VGA, 640 x 480)||YES|
|Still Image size (16:9 mode, 1920 x 1080)||NO|
|Still Image size (16:9 mode, 4,320 x 2,432)||NO|
|Still Image size (16:9 mode, 4000 x 2248)||NO|
|Still Image size (3:2 mode, 4000 x 2672)||NO|
|Still Image size (3:2 mode 3648 x 2432)||NO|
|Still Image size (3:2 mode 3456 x 2304)||NO|
|2D Panorama||7,152 x 1,080(221deg) / 4,912 x 1,080(152deg) / 4,912 x 1,920(164deg) / 3,424 x 1,920(114deg) / 1,920 x 1,080(60deg) / 10,480 x 4,096(172deg)|
|3D Panorama||7,152 x 1,080(221deg) / 4,912 x 1,080(152deg) / 4,912 x 1,920(164deg) / 3,424 x 1,920(114deg)|
|Moving Image Size (1280x720 30fps Fine Approx.9Mbps)||NO|
|Moving Image Size (1280x720 30fps Standard Approx.6Mbps)||NO|
|Moving Image Size (640x480 30fps Approx.3Mbps)||NO|
|Moving Image Size (320x240 30fps)||NO|
|Moving Image Size (AVCHD 1920 x 1080(50i, Interlace) Approx.24Mbps(Average bit-rate))||YES|
|Moving Image Size (AVCHD 1920 x 1080(50i, Interlace) Approx.17Mbps(Average bit-rate))||YES|
|Moving Image Size (AVCHD 1440 x 1080(50i, Interlace) Approx.9Mbps(Average bit-rate))||YES|
|Moving Image Size (MP4/AVI 1440 x 1080 Approx.25fps Progressive) Approx.12Mbps(Average bit-rate))||YES|
|Moving Image Size (MP4/AVI 1280 x 720 Approx.25fps Progressive) Approx.6Mbps(Average bit-rate))||YES|
|Moving Image Size (MP4/AVI 640 x 480 Approx.25fps Progressive) Approx.3Mbps(Average bit-rate))||YES|
|HD (High Definition) Playback||Under 16M(4,608 x 3,456)|
|Slideshow with Music||YES|
|Playback Zoom||YES (8x)|
|Cue & Review (MPEG)||YES|
|Index Playback||16 / 25 images (Date / Folder-Still / Folder-MP4 / AVCHD)|
|Auto Image Rotation||YES|
|Auto grouping and & Best Picture Recognition||YES|
|Battery Remaining Indicator||YES|
|Exposure Warning Indicator||YES|
|Disk / Memory Stick remaining indicator||YES|
|PTP (Picture Transfer Protocol)||NO|
|Print Image Matching||YES|
|Shop Front Mode||YES|
|Start up time (approximately sec)||tbd|
|Menu Language||English, French, German, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, Dutch, Swedish, Norwegian, Danish, Finnish, Polish, Czech, Hungarian , Turkish, Greek, Bulgarian, Croatian, Romanian|
|Multi use Terminal with HD||Type3b, AV(SD)/USB/DCIN|
|Multi use Terminal||YES|
|USB 2.0 Hi-Speed||YES|
|Battery System||Lithium N|
|Stamina (battery life) with the supplied battery(s) in normal shooting condition||230 shots, 115min (CIPA standard with LCD screen on)|
|Battery for Clock||Manganese-Lithium (MS614SE)|
|Weight (g)||Approx. 120g (4.2oz.)|
|Weight with Accessories (g)||Approx. 103g (4.7oz.)|
|Supplied Software||Picture Motion Browser (Windows only)|
|Supplied Accessories||Rechargeable Battery Pack(NP-BN1), USB Charger (AC-UB10/10B), USB Cable, AC Adapter, Wrist strap, CD-ROM|